These days, strong core muscles and good posture are recognised as being crucial factors for supporting overall fitness and well-being – a fact well known to followers of yoga and pilates.
Being able to run half-marathons or bench press twice your mother-in-law’s body weight may be impressive physical feats; however cardio and strength are but two aspects of the total fitness package. We’d all love to be fit and healthy; trouble is, not many of us have the time, money or staying power to embark on a long term fitness regime. Enter Nintendo’s new exercise title: Wii Fit. For just a few minutes a day, you too can convert that keg into a ripped six pack! Well, maybe not, but let's find out what this nifty package has to offer...
Designed to be used on a daily basis – and cleverly disguised as entertainment, the focus of Wii Fit is on improving your core strength and centre of balance (‘cos let’s face it, most of us exhibit varying degrees of poor posture, whether it be through uneven distribution of body weight when standing, or assuming the classic ‘gamer’s slouch’ when playing the latest game du jour). Wii Fit aims to address this via a series of exercises across four different categories: yoga, aerobic, strength and balance.
The wireless Wii Fit balance board is extremely simple to set up and using it feels like a natural progression from the innovative Wii Sport, where the controller is an extension of your body movement. There’s no dodgy camera to worry about – and all the lighting and placement issues that go with it. Everything you need is in the form of a sturdily constructed board (able to withstand up to 150kg weight), the Nunchuk and the Wii remote(s). The balance board doesn’t like uneven or spongy surfaces such as shagpile carpet, so if your floor is less than perfect you may need to place a slab of MDF under it.
After entering your personal details which include height and date of birth, and selecting a Mii to represent yourself, you must then endure the initial Body Test. This only takes a couple of minutes and calculates your body mass index (BMI) from your age, height and weight (sorry, there’s no getting around this one). Your centre of gravity is checked, as is your athletic ability, and you are then given a starting Wii Fit Age. In much the same vein as the ‘Brain Age’ stats in Nintendo’s Brain Training titles, this is more a general indication of skill, rather than an accurate representation of your true fitness level. There are eight user profile slots available, which means everyone in the family can have their own. Their chosen Mii will reflect each person’s BMI – skinny ones for underweight and well rounded for overweight. Personal details such as weight can be password protected, so there’s no fear of other users snooping on your stats while you’re not in the room.
At the beginning of each session you are advised to warm up first – but not shown how. If you’re not familiar with warm-ups you might decide to forgo this essential step. Two personal trainers are provided to help guide you through the exercises, and you can switch from the buff male to the well-toned female at any time. Both can be viewed from the front and back, which is particularly useful for exercises where one foot is placed off the board and behind the body. We found the tutorials to be extremely thorough and clear, although the limited run of encouraging phrases uttered by the trainers tends to become annoyingly repetitive. Your chosen trainer will also talk you through each exercise in real time, which is both helpful and realistic; it’s exactly what would happen in a gym class.
The pressure sensitive inner workings of the balance board are incredibly responsive, being able to detect even the slightest change in your centre of balance, or the amount of weight and downwards force being exerted.
We tried to cheat during one exercise by simply standing on the board i.e. with static, ‘whole body’ weight, instead of using hands. The exercise was press-ups (and not ‘girly’ ones, either), it was near the end of the very first session, and by that stage we were too knackered to attempt the real thing. Anyway, the balance board wasn’t fooled and awarded the worst possible rating of 'couch potato'. So much for taking short cuts…
Transitioning from one exercise to another is not swift or smooth; you have to select each one with the remote and wait for the screen to load. Each exercise also has a few seconds’ count down time before it begins. If you’re already reasonably fit you may find this ‘downtime’ unnecessary, but beginners will probably welcome the respite.